Understanding Novels / Chapter Books with SGM — Part 2 - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

Your Cart is Empty

Understanding Novels / Chapter Books with SGM — Part 2

by Maryellen Rooney Moreau January 21, 2016 3 min read

Hawaii PhotosSession #2 — Comparative Analysis of a Geographical Setting

This post is a continuation of our analysis of Setting of the short novel The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck. In Session #1, we learned about Japan the country. We will now compare the Settings of the two main Characters.

There are two primary geographical settings in this book. Both are in Japan.

  1. Kino lives on a mountain farm near a volcano.
  2. Jiya lives in a fishing village at the edge of the sea.

Setting #1

A farm on top of a mountain overlooking the sea
Use and function:
  • Kino lives on a farm that raises rice and vegetables for livelihood on terraced gardens built into the rock of the mountain by ancestors.

Setting #2

A fishing village next to the sea, at the bottom the mountain
Use and function:
  • Jiya lives in a fishing village catching and selling fish for a living.


Here we may use the characters’ thoughts about the Setting since it is a geographical setting where the land and sea will play a significant part in the plot. We see their view of the setting as perspectives relative to their life experience or those of their elders.


  • Enjoys the sea and thinks it is beautiful. There is a volcano twenty miles from their home, but Kino thinks he is safe.
  • Father has told him about the fears of the land, the fire and trembling earth that may come from a volcano twenty miles from them that they visited last year (page 10). Father states “We must learn to live with danger.”
  • The mountain farm provides livelihood and is safe, provided the volcano doesn’t erupt.


  • “The sea is our enemy” (page 4). He is aware of the dangers of the sea but thinks it is safe atop the mountain.
  • Parents/brother have told him the sea, itself, is dangerous.
  • The sea provides their livelihood and is a source of enjoyment.
  • Terraced by stone fields
  • Broad steps
  • Farm house above all fields
  • Broad blue ocean at foot of mountain
  • Strip of sandy shore
  • Thatched roofs of houses in two uneven lines.
  • Cobbled streets
  • No windows facing the sea.
  • Steep mountain with terraced gardens overlooking broad sea
  • Sandy flat strip of sand with a cobbled street of houses

We want to mention a third part of the Setting in The Big Wave. This is the Old Gentleman’s Castle on a knoll, above the fishing and farming villages. The castle and its grounds are very different from the fishing village and the farming community. The Old Gentleman sees himself as a guardian of the people. Due to the integral setting of the sea, earthquakes and volcano, his castle on the knoll is known as a refuge if something does happen, and his purpose is to signal a possible disaster by means of visual and auditory warnings from atop the knoll.

Below, we have included pictures of three Setting maps from our SGM manual and Autism Volume 1. Each map relates to The Big Wave and could be used in lessons. Notice the Integral Setting Map from the Story Grammar Marker® Manual. This map has appeared in the SGM Manual since its initial publication.

An Integral Setting is one where the geography is essential to the plot. In other words, the setting is necessary to move the plot along, to set the mood and to ultimately create opportunities for the reader to determine the theme(s). In The Big Wave, the themes are loss, survival, resilience, love of family. Notice that the star is surrounded by the character icon showing the importance of the setting to the characters involved.

SGM ManualSGM Setting Map

SGM Intergral Setting Map

Autism Book 1Autism Book 1 Setting Map


Next week we will look at tsunamis and earthquakes in some depth as part of the geographical setting. We will look at lists, sequences, cause/effect. Of course, the “effect” is the actual eruption and tsunami. Stay tuned...

Maryellen Rooney Moreau
Maryellen Rooney Moreau

Maryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is the founder of MindWing Concepts. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Disorders at University of Massachusetts at Amherst as a Commonwealth Honors Scholar, and a Masters of Education in Communication Disorders at Pennsylvania State University. Her forty-year professional career includes school-based SLP, college professor, diagnostician, and Coordinator of Intervention Curriculum and Professional Development for children with language learning disabilities. She designed the Story Grammar Marker® and has been awarded two United States Patents. She has written more than 15 publications and developed more than 60 hands-on tools based on the SGM® methodology. Maryellen was awarded the 2014 Alice H. Garside Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Dyslexia Association, Massachusetts Branch.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.